How mixed reality is transforming consumer experiences

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Michael Franklin of Kindred Futures comments on the evolution of mixed reality in gambling.

The world of immersive technologies – augmented, mixed and virtual realities – is forever moving forward. Seemingly at every tech conference or company event, a new device, platform or even processing chip is announced that promises to enable these technologies to wow consumers.   

Mixed Reality (MR) has been cited as potentially the most disruptive frontier; conjoining the real and virtual world and enabling users to interact with their surroundings like never before. At a consumer level, Pokémon Go initially led the craze, gaining attention from players around the globe. A study by YouGov reported that 13% of the UK population downloaded the game in the UK after its launch, perhaps because it was one of the first mass-market games to blend the real and virtual world. Following on from this, brands have been challenged to match the viral impact of Pokémon Go; a brand which leveraged AR to reignite itself nearly two decades after its conception. As immersive technologies continue to advance, it’s not only the traditional gaming industry that is enhancing their offerings; it has encouraged other sectors including gambling and sports to also step on board.   

At Kindred Futures, partnering with pioneering start-ups to explore the future of customer interaction and experience is part of our ethos, and our partnership with Mixed Reality start-up Zappar sought to do just that. Zappar’s expertise in transforming audience experiences with brands has led it to produce their cutting-edge ZapBox. Designed for mass market rather than forever being an expensive prototype, the $30 MR device is powered by something we all have in our pocket – a smartphone – and uses points codes and a controller to map the user’s surroundings and give them the ability to interact with the experience.   

Through the partnership, we worked with Zappar to create experiences that present users with a holistic view of sporting data via the ZapBox – enabling sports viewers and punters to gain the insights they feel are most valuable when making betting decisions. The experiences place the user at the heart of the data, using MR technology to give them control over the data they want to see, and present this in a truly immersive manner. In this partnership, two demos – one of Champions League football and one of International T20 cricket – gave a flavour of how this technology could revolutionise the consumption of sporting data. 

Currently, when accessing sports data, consumers are either passive recipients of curated data from broadcasters, or they are reliant on online spreadsheets and tables which offer a suboptimal experience. By leveraging its MR capabilities, the ZapBox presents a platform to break this polarity. Jeremy Yates, Senior Business Development Manager at Zappar explains that the start-up’s mission is to try and solve problems like these. At present, sporting data itself isn’t very interesting to interact with, but the ZapBox solution is to “visualise it in a way that is not only immersive, but experiential”.   

The advancement of Mixed Reality enables the user to move from being a passive to active participant and is another step towards a more dynamic experience for sports viewers and bettors alike. It allows the user to control what they see, when they see it, and from this make the most informed decision possible. The two current ZapBox experiences are very much an early demonstration of what could happen and how this technology can be used, and they are just the start of the conversation on how we can make sports data more intuitive, and from this, how this could impact sports viewing experiences in the future.   

TV sports viewership figures are currently falling as consumers move away from long-form watching in front of one primary screen. With consumers demanding more from their viewing experiences, the ability to merge the virtual and real worlds and layer live data over reality, but also personalising the information delivered to users and place control of this experience in the hands of the user; all of these developments could create an immersive experience that takes the enjoyment of sport far beyond the current paradigm. A room-scale, collaborative and active participation, rather than a solitary and passive experience.   

This shift has only become possible because of a host of technological improvements, but as mobile phone cameras, sensors and processing capabilities further improve, and when combined with 5G connectivity and beyond, the scope of what is technically possible for mixed reality and how this sports data can be delivered, will allow even greater, and currently unforeseen, steps forward than those listed above.   

Based on the ever-evolving consumer behaviour and needs, companies need to be constantly one step ahead – and as consumers are becoming more accustomed to radical technologies, the partnership with Zappar has given us at Kindred Futures the ability to consider different ways to deliver data to our consumers with a pioneering experiential product.   

In addition to the technology itself, the ever-changing landscape means that we must also always analyse our audiences in order to keep them engaged with our products and services. As consumers demand more personal experiences from brands, industries such as ours are constantly being challenged to be forward-thinking with the ways in which we match these demands. Although we dedicate ourselves to being adept when it comes to engaging with our audiences, the disruptive nature of technological advances implies that it is also a significant opportunity to take our offerings one step further. By utilising technologies such as Mixed Reality, we can continue to challenge ourselves to produce even more innovations to cater for our audiences and surpass their expectations.   

So, what does the future hold for Mixed Reality in relation to sports? While immersive technologies were first conceived decades ago, technological improvements are finally delivering user-friendly experiences and with many consumers having their first explorations of MR or AR capabilities on high-end smartphones, it appears the field is at a tipping point before reaching mass-adoption in the very near future. Sports viewing, and thus gambling, will inevitably be affected by this shift, and so partnerships with companies such as Zappar have given Kindred Futures a brilliant stepping stone to further expansion when the moment or mass-adoption does come.      

Michael Franklin, Open Innovation Manager at Kindred 

Image Credit: Ahmet Misirligul / Shutterstock